Tonawanda News

December 14, 2013

A classic reunion ahead of 'A Christmas Story'

By Jessica Bagley jessica.bagley@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — AMHERST — Thirty years after “A Christmas Story” was filmed, the actors still love laughing about their experience on the freezing film set — and they’ll be bringing those humorous memories to a packed Riviera Theatre today.

“We made friendships that lasted years,” Scott Schwartz, who played Flick in the 1983 cult classic, said at a press conference Friday held at an Amherst hotel. “We get to laugh when we get together, it’s fun.”

Ian Petrella, who played Randy, Ralphie’s little brother, made his first trip to North Tonawanda last year for a screening event at the Riv. This year, he brought along Schwartz — whose character got his tongue stick to the flagpole in the film — and four other of his co-stars — Zack Ward (Scut Farkus), the red-headed bully; Yano Anaya (Grover Dill), the little bully; Tedde Moore (Ms. Shields), the teacher; and Patty Johnson-Lafontaine, who played the female Higbee’s Elf.

Both screenings were organized by fan Joe Lavey, the president of the Sweeney Hose #7 volunteer fire company in North Tonawanda.

“Last year, everything was based on a Facebook post. I offered to come down to show it for free, and everything went great,” Petrella said. “Joe asked me if I wanted to come down again, and I said ‘why not?’ “

Lavey envisioned last year’s screening as a one-time event to serve as a fundraiser for the fire company, but now, he hopes to make it an annual, affordable treat for local families. After 11 months of work, meeting the actors from his favorite film was quite the reward.

“This is like a dream come true for me,” he said. “It’s great to see this coming together, and the biggest thing is bringing them to NT.”

The cast members said they enjoy talking to fans like Lavey, who has two leg lamps and two Red Ryder BB guns in his home, made famous by the movie.

“We appreciate that they appreciated something we did,” Schwartz said. “They are thousands of movies that are thrown up on the wall, and there are fans all over the place that go to great lengths for us. We try to give that back to the fans.”

On Friday, ahead of the big day, the cast members reunited — as they often do for screening events during the holiday season — and talked about memories from the film. Schwartz remembered that it was freezing outside, and that filming outdoors wasn’t so fun, while Anaya said his favorite part of being in the film was flying first class as a kid. 

Most of the cast members are no longer full-time actors and said they go unrecognized when they’re out and about. Although that allows the cast to go out in public without being interrupted for autographs or questions, Petrella noted that fame has its advantages.

He joked about going to the movies with Ward, who has appeared in more than 100 TV shows and films since the 1983 movie. While Petrella had to pay for his popcorn and pop, Ward got his for free — just because the theater employee recognized him.

“Zack introduced me as the younger brother in ‘A Christmas Story’ ... so then I go, ‘ahem.’ And literally, the guy looks at me and says ‘you already paid.’ That’s one of those things ... I could have saved 22 bucks that day,” Petrella laughed.

Today’s event is expected to sell out, but tickets are available online at www.rivieratheatre.org or at the box office.

Cast members will take part in a parade before the screening beginning at 11 a.m. today on Broad Street in the City of Tonawanda and will include the original fire truck from the movie, before heading over to the Riviera Theatre at 1 p.m. for a two-hour question and answer session, followed by a 3 p.m. screening of “A Christmas Story.” Rides on the fire truck will also be available for a small donation.

Caseen Gaines, who wrote “A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic” is also in town with the actors. His new book features never-before-seen photos from the film and stories from the set. The book will be available today at the event, and is also on amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble.

If you go: WHAT: A screening event with cast members of "A Christmas Story" WHEN: Winter parade today at 11 a.m., question and answer at 1 p.m. and screening at 3 p.m. WHERE: Parade starts at Broad Street, screening at The Riviera Theater & Performing Arts Center, 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda